Wednesday, September 18, 2013

1:1 It's Not About the Device

When a school begins talking about a 1:1 initiative, many people immediately focus on the device. What device are we going to give our students? For a 1:1 initiative to be successful, talk cannot be about the device. The discussion must center around what we want our students to be able to do. The device DOES NOT MATTER!

Kids have grown up with a device in their hands. From the time they are little, they use mom and dad's smartphone or computer or tablet. They go to school and they use computers and tablets from a very young age. Our kids are adaptable! They don't care what the device is--they just want to be connected. A kid can pick up any piece of technology and have it figured out in a matter of minutes.

At the Norfolk Public Schools Google Summit in January of 2013, keynote speaker Molly Schroeder made the statement, "We need to date the device and we need to marry the skill." The minute you buy a new device, it is outdated. Something new is always going to be right around the corner. But the skills you develop while using technology are transferable. On any given day, I use my iPhone, Dell laptop, iPad and Chromebook. The skills I learn on one device, transfer easily to the other.

It is not about Chromebooks vs iPads. It is about having our students connected 24/7. They deserve access to information around the clock--not just when their teacher signs up for a computer lab. It is about leveling the playing field for all of our students. Can you imagine if textbooks were optional? No! So why should technology be optional?

A 1:1 initiative at any level needs to start with the question, "What do we want our students to be able to do?" If you can succinctly answer that question, whatever device you choose will be the right one.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer Tech Challenge Reflection and The REAL Reason Behind the STC

The first NPS Summer Tech Challenge is officially over! Where did the summer go? I thought I'd take a minute and give my reflection of the Summer Tech Challenge and let you know the real reason behind the STC.

When I originally came up with the idea for the Summer Tech Challenge, I had a few goals in mind. First and foremost, I wanted to get teachers connected. Not only did I want them to connect with the education world at large (thus the Blogger, Twitter and Pinterest challenges) but I wanted to connect teachers within our district. I think a lot of times we get so busy doing what we do in our buildings that we forget that we have wonderful and talented teachers all across the district. After reading through the blogs and seeing comments that were made and help that was offered and ideas that were generated, I think teachers definitely connected.

Secondly, I wanted the challenges to be, well, challenging! I purposely did not give step by step directions in most of the challenges. I did give some directions throughout but I really wanted to stretch people technology wise and have them go out and find additional help if they needed it. I tried to give links to helpful websites in the hope that people would use them if needed. Some people were probably able to explore the technologies on their own and learn how to use them that way--they didn't need my directions. I also decided to have some tools in the Challenge that wouldn't be too difficult or that people already had experience using, like Pinterest. I wanted to have a good mix of difficulty and I think I did.

Third, I wanted to get more #npspanthers on Twitter! I have learned so much in the year that I have been on Twitter that I wanted to share that with other teachers. The Twitter challenge was probably the hardest challenge for a lot of teachers. I appreciate everyone's willingness to at least give it a try. And I sincerely hope that you keep Tweeting. I cannot fathom how I did my job before I was on Twitter. I cannot fathom how teachers expect to stay current on anything, technology or pedagogy or anything in education, without being on Twitter.

Now, if I were to do this again, what would I change? Well, right off I knew that I should have included a question on the completion forms for each Challenge that had people list which blogs they had commented on. As it was, I had to look through every blog in the Challenge to find comments. This took quite awhile! If I did this again, I would definitely include something on the form for people to indicate who's blog they commented on.

When I started the Challenge, I intended to comment on every blog post written. I did pretty good in the beginning, but as more and more people started to participate, I missed several blog posts. I usually took weekends off and lots of people spent their weekends working on the Challenges. I would have actually had to monitor the blogs every day to have been able to keep up. But I decided that I needed some time off!

I really thought that doing my summer tech training online would be easier for me. Ha! Was I every wrong on that. I worked on the Summer Tech Challenge five days a week for two to three hours each day. If I had done two weeks of in person training like I did last summer, I would have worked maybe three weeks total to plan and deliver the training. So people who think that online teaching is easier, it isn't.

And now, the REAL reason for the Summer Tech Challenge. I had back surgery on June 10 and I just didn't know if I would be ready to do in person training before school started. I knew that I had to do some kind of training and that is why the Summer Tech Challenge was born. I could have taken the summer off and offered no technology training of any kind. But I also knew (or thought) I had a pretty good thing going in the way of technology training. If I took the summer off, I thought I would lose some of the momentum I had built up in the way of technology training. I knew that I had to offer something and I was pretty sure I could if I had to, lay on my back and monitor people's progress. Fortunately, that didn't happen. I was able to sit in my chair in my home office (or some days, on my couch in front of the TV) and keep track of everyone in the Summer Tech Challenge.

Overall, I am very pleased with how the Summer Tech Challenge went. I got to know a few more people in the district and I got to see the wonderful work that everyone produced. If you haven't done so, I encourage you to take a look at the blogs in the Summer Tech Challenge. Almost everything the teachers in the Summer Tech Challenge produced are embedded on their blogs. I guarantee that you will get some ideas on how you can use these tools in your classroom. The blog URLs are embedded on the Challenge 1 page--scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the URLs.

The Summer Tech Challenge remains open for viewing. If you didn't have a chance to take a look at the challenges this summer, feel free to browse through them this year.

And those of you who were in the Challenge, I hope you continue to blog throughout the year. Remember a blog is a great way to reflect--just like I'm doing here. Or if you find a cool new technology tool or do a cool lesson in your classroom, blog about that. I really enjoyed reading everyone's blog posts even if I didn't get to comment on all of them.

So now you know the REAL reason behind the Summer Tech Challenge.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Reading

One of the things I look forward to in summer is reading. I love to read! I don't usually read during the school year--too much else to do. But during the summer, I dust off my library card and get to it! In summers' past, I reread the Harry Potter series from beginning to end. Last summer I read the Hunger Games series. This summer I was ready to dig into my favorite mystery authors including Lisa Scottoline, Susan Witting Albert and Nancy Atherton. And I've read great books by all three authors.

But this summer I have also taken the time to read some "education" books, starting with "The Energy Bus" by John Gordon. I actually read this book over Christmas break at the insistence of my husband who is a HUGE John Gordon fan. But I was reminded of the book when I heard John Gordon speak at the Nebraska Career Education Conference in Kearney in June. While the book is good, John Gordon in person is so much better! This book as the cover says gives you "10 rules to fuel your life, work and team with positive energy." This is an excellent book for anyone in education or coaching. It has been huge on Twitter. You may have heard about it this spring during the Husker softball team's run through the NCAA tourney. The entire team read the book and used it to fuel their season. The book was given by new Husker AD, Shawn Eichorst to the entire athletic department. There is even an Energy Bus for Kids. There is an awesome website with posters you can download and bus tickets you can email or print. "The Energy Bus" reminds you that positivity in what you do every day is so important. You decide if you want to be "on the bus" or if you are an "energy vampire."

The second book I was curious to read was "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess. If you are on Twitter, you have to have heard about #tlap. This book has taken Twitter by storm. Now at first I thought, what do pirates have to do with teaching? But the minute I started reading and understood Dave's reasoning for using the PIRATE mnemonic, I was sold! PIRATE stands for Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyze, Transformation, Enthusiasm. Dave offers great ideas that any teacher at any level can use in their classrooms. And the best thing is that Dave is a teacher in the classroom day in and day out. He is NOT a professional developer. He is using these techniques in the classroom right now. He is a self-published author that has taken to doing professional development workshops on the side. He basically gives you a peak into his world and how he structures his classes. I would love to be a fly on the wall in his classroom!

The third book I read was "The Ten-Minute Inservice" by Todd Whitaker and Annette Breaux. This was another book I heard about on Twitter. I have seen Todd Whitaker at NCE Conferences in the past and enjoy him as a speaker. This was the first book I read by him. This book gives you "40 quick training sessions that build teacher effectiveness." The inservce sessions last 10 minutes which means they can be used in conjunction with things you are already doing. Just take 10 minutes to go over one concept from the book. This book makes it super simple to use the concepts because it tells you exactly what to say and how to say it when delivering each of the inservices. Each inservice has a purpose, directions for the inservice itself and implementation tips. This book was all about improving teaching in your school. This book is a must read by administrators. Many tips are shared throughout the book on getting your teachers to be better teachers. I also thought a lot of the concepts fell in line with the APL Training that our district has already been through.

I am glad that I took some time away from my favorite mysteries to read these books this summer. Even though none of these books addressed technology directly, I think there are things I can use from all three in my technology training sessions this year. If you are looking for a book to read yet this summer, pick up one or more of these three books. All will be well worth your time!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Tech Challenge So Far

I have to say, when I cooked up the idea for the Summer Tech Challenge, I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't sure how many people would participate. I wasn't sure if people would see that they had to blog and they had to Tweet to participate, if they would participate at all. Lots of unknowns for this summer's tech training.

But I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised at what has transpired thus far. I had one person race through the challenges and is just waiting for other people to catch up so she can finish her blog comments. I have others who started quickly and have since slowed down. I have had people not even in our district ask if they could complete the Summer Tech Challenge (the more the merrier I say). And we had some new people register for the challenge this week.

We have had some excellent, thoughtful, reflective blog posts. I see some new people on Twitter. I think we have some new Pinterest addicts. People are liking TED Talks videos. The verdict is still out on ClassBadges--although I am having fun awarding badges when people complete a challenge.

What I hoped would happen through the Summer Tech Challenge is that anyone who participates would start to connect with others in the district. Sometimes we are so confined to our classrooms and our buildings, we forget that we have some wonderful and talented teachers all across our district. I was hoping people would start to make connections and learn from others. I hope these connections don't stop once the challenge is over but continue on. I believe this is an important step in building a PLN (Personal Learning Network). We forget that people in our PLN can be local too! (Yes, I'm talking about you Lisa Pospishil--important member of my PLN!)

If you haven't jumped in on the challenge yet, it's not too late! You don't have to need professional growth points to participate. If you want to go through the challenges and not submit the completion forms, go for it. But if you are doing it for professional growth, please be sure to submit the form after each challenge.

I have really enjoyed the Summer Tech Challenge so far. I have loved reading the blog posts of so many first time bloggers. I love seeing what you guys are tweeting with our #npsstc. And I love seeing you connect with other people in the district. I think that is what I am most proud of.

So, keep up the good work! And don't forget to share and ask questions via Twitter!

Sunday, June 2, 2013


GoAnimate is a fun site that allows you to create animated videos like this one:

SH Summer Tech Challenge by Mickie Mueller on GoAnimate

I think students would love making animated videos. Like so many of the tools in the Summer Tech Challenge, GoAnimate could be another way students could show what they have learned. For example, in history class, have students make a modern day version of George Washington crossing the Delaware. Or in a literature class, have students reenact a scene from Romeo and Juliet only setting it in modern times. Both of these examples would definitely give you an idea whether or not your students understood what was happening in each of those situations.

You could also use GoAnimate to introduce a unit of study. You could put together a video and share it with students prior to starting the unit.

Math teachers could have students create videos for factoring or explaining a proof or pointing out the geometric shapes that they see on a daily basis. GoAnimate could be used in just about every subject area.

Be sure to check out the GoAnimate Lesson Gallery for other ideas!


It's no secret. I LOVE LiveBinders! When I first started using LiveBinders, I used it as a way to keep track of my favorite websites. I thought LiveBinders was so much better than bookmarking a site. With LiveBinders, you actually go to to see what the site looked like. When you bookmark a site, you get a name and you may or may not remember what the site looks like. The first LiveBinder I created was Free Technology Tools for Teachers. It has become kind of famous being named one of the Top 10 LiveBinders of 2012 and featured on the LiveBinders website. I add something new to this binder almost every day. It now has well over 300 free tools in it.

Free Technology Tools for Teachers

I've since created several other binders to keep track of things like Google resources and iPad apps. I've even created a binder that I use as a personal portfolio. This binder has all of the training materials that I have developed in it.

But my favorite binder has to be a binder I created for a teacher who asked me for help. She wanted her students to do a final project but she didn't want them to use PowerPoint. So I created a LiveBinder called Alternatives to PowerPoint. I found several tools her students could use instead of PowerPoint. The binder has links to the tools as well as tutorials and videos on using the tools. The idea was for students to use this binder to teach themselves the tool. The teacher didn't have to be an expert in using all of these tools. Everything students needed was in the binder. Give it a look.

Alternatives to PowerPoint

There are so many ways you could use LiveBinders with students or for yourself. Here are some of my favorite LiveBinders that other people have done.

Google Presentation

I love Google Presentation. It is simple to use and creates great embeddable presentations like this one:

One of my most favorite features of Google Presentation is the ability to add YouTube videos. Google makes it so simple! (You can see a video added to Slide 4 of the above presentation.) If you have ever tried to add a video of any kind to PowerPoint, you will appreciate how easy it is to add a video in Google Presentations.

I also love the ability to collaborate with others on a Presentation. No more emailing attachments and files back and forth. Simply share the Presentation and voila! Having students do a group presentation would be easy with Google Presentations.

I hate all of the flying animations and whirlygig transitions in PowerPoint. I love how simple the effects are in Google Presentations. And I love it even more if you don't have to use them!


Voki is a site that has been around for awhile. Voki allows you to create speaking avatars such as this one:

Students love Voki, especially elementary students. But don't think this site is just for younger students. Because you have the ability to record your own voice for the Voki, this would be perfect to use in a foreign language classroom. Instead of giving an oral quiz, have the students create Vokis for the quiz instead.

Another idea would be to have students create Vokis to share their latest poem. Again you could have the students record themselves reading the poem and that becomes the Vokis voice.

I love the ability to embed the Voki. Your students could embed the Voki in their blog or on their website. Or you could create a Voki page on your SchoolFusion page or class website and have the students send you the embed code for their Voki. What a great way to share what your students have created.

Be sure to visit the Voki Lesson Plan Database for other ideas on using Voki in your classroom!


I first found Glogster several years ago. When I first signed up for Glogster, the free basic teacher account was a lot more powerful. You could create a class and add students to the class. You could then access your students Glogs. They have since changed the free basic teacher account so that it is just that, an account. You don't have the ability with this level of account to have classes and add students to your classes. But you and your students can have free accounts. In order to see your students Glogs, they will have to share the URL of the Glog with you.

I used Glogster in a couple of different classes. In IT Fundamentals, I had students do a project on a famous computer person. Instead of having students write a report or do a presentation on the person, I had students make a Glog. They were still giving me the same information I would have wanted in a report or presentation, but Glogster allowed them I think to be more creative and make the project interactive. They could include links to websites and YouTube videos in Glog. While they could include a link in a report, I would have had to go to the computer and enter the link in order to see the site. With Glogster, I just clicked on it. Here is an example I did on Grace Hopper.

In my IT Apps 2 class, I had the students make a portfolio of their work. Throughout this class students did several Photoshop projects. Their portfolio Glog included all of their projects along with an explanation of the project. Here is a sample.

I love Glogster and the possibilities it gives students to show their creativity. I would love to see more teachers give students options to showcase their learning. I think Glogster would be a great option.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TED Talks

I love TED Talks! Really smart people talking about inspiring things. The TED Talks website is a wealth of information. The front page of TED Talks shows the videos that are currently popular. But you can also search by subject or broad topic like inspiring or funny or beautiful. Or you can use the Surprise Me option and select an amount of time and broad topic and have TED find a video for you.

Here is one of my favorite TED Talks by a 12 year old app developer.

This TED Talk would be perfect to use in the classroom. Show the video and have the kids start thinking about an app they could develop. Have them blog about the app they would develop.

This video would be a good one to use in a Science class. This video features the three winners of the 2011 Google Science Fair. All three happen to be amazing young ladies. Also a great video to show girls to show them that a career in science is possible.

I would love to see teachers use TED Talks in class. Use the video as a blog starter. Or find a video that would be a good lead in for a project or unit you do in class. There are thousands of videos on TED Talks so you should be able to find something to work for your classroom!

TED Talks also has an excellent iPad app.


Pinterest. Some people love it and some people hate it. I was a Pinterest holdout. I just couldn't see how I could use it. I was already using LiveBinders to save my favorite sites and I just wan't sure how Pinterest would help me.

And then our official NPS Pinterest Queens, Julie Morgan and Lori Coffin, showed me how they were using Pinterest. All of their school resources are housed in Pinterest. They pull up their Pinterest boards every day at school, and voilia they have at the touch of their fingers everything they need to use in class. They have brain break videos and SMART Board lessons and craft websites and lesson plans all housed in Pinterest.

Now Julie and Lori are two of the most techie teachers we have in NPS and I respect them greatly. And I thought if they are using Pinterest, then maybe I should give it a look. So I finally started an account and started pinning. My boards are all for educational purposes. I don't have any boards for recipes or clothes or crafts, not that there is anything wrong with that. I just wanted my focus to be educational.

I have found Pinterest to be a great way to organize things. If you are visual person, you will really love Pinterest.

I was inspired by @annfeldmann1 and the #tt4t team at Bellevue Public Schools. Ann teaches a class on Pinterest and her district has group boards that the teachers in the class pin to. I thought this was a great resource for her teachers so I decided to create a Pinterest account for Norfolk Public Schools. Panther Pinners has really taken off. We have 26 people so far that can pin to the district boards. We have 87 followers of our boards. The goal is to build a place where anyone in the district can come and get great ideas. You don't have to be a member of Pinterest in order to search the boards and look for ideas.

So don't dismiss Pinterest. It can be a great place to get all sorts of ideas for your classroom!

ClassBadges: The New Version of Smelly Stickers

ClassBadges is an interesting site trying to take advantage of the buzz word "gamification." Teachers can set up an account at ClassBadges and award students badges for completing different tasks. Here is a video overview of ClassBadges.

When I first saw the site I thought this would be fun and motivating for students. One thing I didn't think of which has been brought up by others in the Summer Tech Challenge is keeping up with awarding badges if you have large numbers of students. So I am now encouraging teachers to start small, with maybe one class and see how it goes. Are your students motivated when they receive a badge? If they are, then maybe continue to add classes.

One feature I would like to see added to ClassBadges is the ability to embed the badges on a blog or a website. I think if students could take the badges they have earned and show them off on their blog or website, they might be motivated to earn more badges. What do you think? Do you think the ability for students to show off their badges on their own blog or website would add to the motivation factor?

As I'm writing this, I am reminded of my JH math class. Back in the 80's, scratch and sniff stickers were all the rage. Our JH math teacher would put these stickers on our papers. Many of us would then transfer the stickers to our notebooks so that our notebooks were covered with stickers. It was a fun way that he found to motivate us and we wanted to show off our stickers. I guess ClassBadges is the 2010's version of smelly stickers!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Twitter Journey

Okay, time for a confession. I was a Twitter holdout. I joined Twitter in June of 2012 so I am coming up on my one year anniversary. And I have to say Twitter has completely changed me as a professional.

So why the holdout? Well, I guess like a lot of people I thought Twitter was a waste of time. I thought it was all about Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher and celebrities and what people ate for dinner. I didn't understand that there is an entire community of educators, of professionals on Twitter and that they use Twitter to grow and to learn.

With Twitter, it is all about who you follow. If you follow nothing but celebrities, you will see a lot of things that will waste your time. But if you follow educators who are passionate about what they do, you will learn so much. I honestly have no idea how I did my job and stayed current on things before Twitter. I learn something new on Twitter every single day. I can't think of any other medium (email, listservs, etc) where that is true for me.

At first when I joined Twitter, I kind of felt like the kid on the playground who is watching all the cool kids play and is longing to be asked to join in. But I stayed with it. I answered questions when I could. Offered advice and joined in on conversations whether it was asked of me or not. And slowly, I started to build followers and gradually people began asking me for advice. I was now one of the cool kids! It felt awesome when someone retweeted a Tweet or favorited something I Tweeted.

For me, I jumped in head first right away. I started sharing things and participating in chats almost as soon as I joined Twitter. But I know lots of people who are on Twitter and who just lurk and observe. They glean things off of Twitter they can use. They retweet things they find useful. But they don't share their own things. And if that is how you want to start, go for it. Get comfortable with the Twitter vernacular. See what other people are sharing. Retweet things you find valuable. But don't be afraid to share your own things or ask your own questions. There is a whole education community out there waiting to help you.

Set a goal to spend at least 10 minutes per day on Twitter. Go through your timeline and see what other people have been talking about. Retweet something you find helpful. Just 10 minutes a day. I think you will soon find yourself spending more and more time on Twitter. At least I hope you do!

Nebraska has some of the very best educational Tweeters out there. There are close to 100 Nebraska educators on this list. They are awesome people who are passionate about what they do. If you are not sure who to follow. follow everyone on this list and you will learn a lot.

I have to thank the people who convinced me (harassed me) to join Twitter: @coreydahlevent, @lpospishil and @bobhastings312. @shellymowinkel was a great mentor when I first got started. She was always there to answer questions. And since I've been on Twitter, I've met some fantastic tweeps: @mandery, @catlett1, @annfeldmann1, @chericson, @Coach_Sautter, @j_allen, @lherr, @hcallihan and so many others.

Getting the hang of Twitter and building a PLN can take some time, but it is so worth it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 Skills Modern Teachers Must Have

The 10 Skills Modern Teachers Must Have is what sparked the Summer Tech Challenge. When I read this article, I knew that I had to use it to frame my summer tech training.

One of the statements in this article that really stuck out to me was "If you can't figure out how a digital tool helps you in under 15 seconds, you don't need it." For me, this statement is powerful. I'm always looking for the next big thing in educational technology. I explore a lot of sites every week. I have taken this statement to heart. If I can't figure out how to use the tool or how my teachers can use the tool in a short time, I move on.

Another skill modern teachers must have is building a PLN or Personal Learning Network. One of my big goals in the Summer Tech Challenge is to help teachers build their PLN. From blogging, to Pinterest to Twitter, all of these tools can help you build a PLN. I have built my PLN from scratch this year as I finally joined Twitter. I cannot believe how Twitter has changed the way I do things in my job, the way I share things, the way I ask for help. While most of these people on Twitter I have never met, they are some of the most helpful and supportive people out there.

Some people believe that Twitter is nothing but a time waster. And I can see how Twitter can be that. I believe it is all about who you follow. Twitter is not just Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher. There is a whole education community out there that uses Twitter to share, to learn and to grow professionally. These are the people I follow. I don't follow the Justin Bieber's and Ashton Kutcher's of the Twitter world. I follow people who I can learn from and who give me value as an educator.

I have to give a shout out to one of those people @catlett1 aka Brent Catlett aka Mr. Google. He actually challenged me to blog a couple of months ago. Well, I finally got around to it and I think I will stick with it. Maybe no one will read this blog. And that's okay. I think blogging and getting some ideas out on screen will help me grow as an educator. And that is what is important.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Welcome to the Summer Tech Challenge! I have had a lot of fun putting together this training. I have tried to pick tools that will allow you to grow as a professional. Some tools will be for your own professional development and organization. Some tools will be great to use with students. Hopefully you will be able to use everything you create in the challenges in some way with your students next year.

Please refer to the Summer Tech Challenge website for the details.

Good luck!